Despite constant praise from Major League Soccer voices, United States men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter didn’t believe in Gianluca Busio. It wasn't until weeks prior to the 2021 Gold Cup, after the Sporting Kansas City player arrived at USMNT training camp, that Berhalter finally began to take notice.
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes signed Busio to the club’s academy in 2016, allowing the player to rise through the ranks before signing an MLS Homegrown Player contract. In 2017, Busio became the second-youngest signing in league history at the age of 15. Vermes has been praising the player for his unique talent and special abilities on the pitch, hoping Berhalter would take notice.
"Peter's been singing his praises for the last couple of years and I didn't really know what he was about until I started working with him," Berhalter said after the USMNT's 1-0 win over Canada in their final Gold Cup group stage match. "When I see this kid in training and games, he is special.”
Busio made his debut in the tournament opener on July 11 against Haiti, where the United States triumphed 1-0 against the Caribbean nation. He became the second-youngest player in U.S. men’s national team history to be selected for and play in the Gold Cup. He is only one of seven current teenagers on the roster representing the country.
Busio featured in the team’s last group stage match, defeating Canada 1-0 to advance to the knockout round as winners of Group B. During the match, Berhalter noticed Busio’s unique technique and qualities on the ball that distinguish the young forward from other players on the pitch.
"For him to deal with the game like he did and play the way he did, it shows a lot about his quality. I thought, in the beginning of the game, he was excellent in his position," Berhalter added. "Again, we asked him to have a complicated role moving up in offense and down in defense and he was able to understand it, grasp it and perform well."
The United States plays again on Sunday July 26 against Jamaica or Costa Rica in the Gold Cup quarter-finals.